Skip­jacks lock up top seed in re­gion tour­ney

Ch­e­sa­peake earns some rest af­ter state cham­pi­onship sea­son

Record Observer - - Sports - By RICHARD MID­CAP

Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege’s re­ward for a stel­lar soft­ball sea­son is some well-de­served rest.

While the re­main­der of the NJCAA Di­vi­sion II Re­gion XX field plays be­stof-three play-in se­ries this week, the Skip­jacks (29-6 over­all, 12-2 re­gion) will be en­joy­ing a four-day break from soft­ball. Head coach Dur­rie Hayes is giv­ing his play­ers the time to “rest and heal.”

“We’ve played so many games — 16 in 14 days af­ter Sun­day’s dou­ble­header at Hager­stown,” Hayes said. “I think men­tally it’s start­ing to show on us.

“We’re go­ing to play Mont­gomery Wed­nes­day,” said Hayes, re­fer­ring to a 3 p.m. reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale at home, “and then we’re tak­ing four days off. That’s go­ing to help us with our in­juries and help us men­tally, I think. We’ll come back fresh next Mon­day or Tues­day and start all over.”

While Ch­e­sa­peake’s most se­ri­ous health is­sue — power-hit­ting short­stop Jenna Wil­ley’s knee in­jury, which re­cently ended her sea­son — won’t be im­proved with time off, Hayes said a lot of the other Skip­jacks will ben­e­fit from the break.

“We’ve got a girl with an an­kle, a girl with a quad, a girl with a ham­string, a cou­ple of girls just sore from play­ing so much,” Hayes said. “I think rest is re­ally go­ing to help them. A cou­ple of girls with sore arms — that’s re­ally go­ing to help them.”

Ch­e­sa­peake clinched the re­gion’s top seed with a 9-1 vic­tory in Sun­day’s opener as Abby Nel­son and Caro­line Clarry each drove in two runs and Kristina Shank went 4 for 5. Rachael Mil­li­gan (15-2) yielded six hits over six in­nings while walk­ing two and whiff­ing three.

Hager­stown, how­ever, then shocked the Skip­jacks, 5-4, as Kelsey Kann (3 for 4, three RBIs) sin­gled in the win­ning run with two outs in the bot­tom of the sev­enth. Madi­son Bachtell spaced seven hits in a com­plete-game win, al­low­ing one run over the fi­nal five frames as Hager­stown over­come an early, 2-0 deficit.

Hayes said the Hawks’ home-field ad­van­tage was just that in Game 2.

“We hit six balls that would have been out at Ch­e­sa­peake — some of them way out,” Hayes said. “I’m not com­plain­ing, but it’s hard to say we weren’t hit­ting the ball hard.”

The Hager­stown dou­ble­header was proof that while the Skip­jacks may be the top seed, this could be any­one’s tour­na­ment. Hager­stown is the low­est-seeded team in the seven-team event.

“I’d say it’s wide open,” Hayes said of the tour­na­ment race.

Ch­e­sa­peake, which won its first undis­puted Mary­land Ju­nior Col­lege Ath­letic Con­fer­ence soft­ball cham­pi­onship in 35 years, beat out sec­ond-seeded Po­tomac State Col­lege of West Vir­ginia Univer­sity (27-7, 15-3) for the top seed in part by split­ting a dou­ble­header with the Cata­mounts last Fri­day. CCBC-Ca­tonsville (28-17, 9-5), the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land (2017, 10-6), Cecil (19-12, 6-8), Fred­er­ick (11-22, 5-9), and Hager­stown (9-24, 4-10) are seeded third through sev­enth, re­spec­tively.

The Skip­jacks earned guar­an­teed en­try into the dou­ble-elim­i­na­tion por­tion of the re­gional tour­na­ment, which will be played May 6-8 at Hager­stown. Ch­e­sa­peake will play a win­ners’ bracket re­gion semi­fi­nal next Fri­day at noon against the winner be­tween fourth-seeded CSM and fifth-seeded Cecil as the other six teams pair up this week­end for their best-of-three play-in se­ries.

“We play the winner of a se­ries be­tween a cou­ple of teams with pretty good pitch­ers,” Hayes said. “There’s tal­ent through­out the draw. Last year we had a cou­ple of up­sets in the first round of the tour­na­ment — you never know.”

Hayes said the for­mat for both this week­end and next week’s dou­ble-elim­i­na­tion Fi­nal Four fa­vors teams — like Ch­e­sa­peake — with a lot of pitch­ing depth.

“Teams with one pitcher are at a dis­ad­van­tage,” said Hayes, whose squad had to play three games on the fi­nal day of last year’s tour­na­ment. “Pot State is in good shape — they have pitch­ing and hit­ting.”

In the other half of the draw, sec­ond-seeded PSC plays sev­enth-seeded Hager­stown and third-seeded Ca­tonsville takes on sixth-seeded Fred­er­ick. The vic­tors play in next Fri­day’s 2 p.m. win­ners’ bracket semi­fi­nal.

The win­ners’ bracket fi­nal is next Satur­day at noon, fol­lowed by a pair of losers’ bracket con­tests. The fi­nals are Sun­day at noon with the “if” game, if nec­es­sary at 2 p.m. The Skip­jacks will be seek­ing their sev­enth re­gion fi­nal in the last eight years, but are look­ing for their first re­gion cham­pi­onship since 2009. Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Bil­l_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@star­


Queen Anne’s County High’s Alex Downes watches a re­turn dur­ing his No. 5 sin­gles match against Eas­ton’s Alex Matche, last Thurs­day af­ter­noon in Cen­tre­ville.

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